With links to previous episodes
As Bronwyn and I walked over to join the end of the line at Starbucks, I couldn’t help feeling that the eyes of the superfan we’d just met were still following our every move. I resisted the urge to turn around and confirm my suspicions. Besides, if I was wrong, wouldn’t I be the one being the creepy creeper dude by staring at him?
(Ahem.) We interrupt this programming to say that, if you missed parts 1 and 2 of this series, it’s very understandable. The flow of this series was interrupted for a long time. You can find Part 2 here and Part 1 here. You should “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
“So, should I get you one of those Pokemon Go frappuccinos?” I asked Bronwyn.
“I want a mocha frappuccino,” said Bronwyn.
“Aren’t you too young for coffee?”
“It’s a frappuccino. It’s practically a milkshake. Uncle Jack lets me have coffee flavored ice cream.”
“Ye-ah,” I said, my voice sliding from a high to low note. “But actual coffee has too much caffeine. It’s my duty as your uncle by proxy to protect you from drugs.”
“Drugs?” said Bronwyn. “It’s caffeine, not crack.”
At the mention of crack, my protective instincts turned up a notch … or twenty. “Crack? Who’s been talking to you about crack?” I asked.
Bronwyn rolled her blue eyes at me. “I’m in the D.A.R.E. program … you know where they teach about drug prevention.”
“Right,” I said.
“Plus,” she said. “I watch TV. I don’t live in a cave.”
“Right,” I said. “Well, caffeine is still a drug … albeit a socially acceptable one.”
In the process of this whole, interesting discussion on drugs, we had worked our way to the front of the line.
“Hi,” I told the barista. “I’d like a cold brew for myself, and she’d like a …”
“I want a mocha …” Bronwyn put in.
At this point, I took Bronwyn into a loving chokehold. Let me rephrase that. I gave Bronwyn a sideways hug that strongly resembled a chokehold. “She’d like one of those unicorn drinks or whatever you have that’s pink and girly and non-caffeinated,” I said. “With a big smiley face on the cup, please.” I myself don’t know why I felt the need to add the last part.
“Okay,” said the barista. “I could do a cotton candy frappuccino. That’s pink. The unicorn one is more colorful.”
I shrugged a shoulder. “I leave it to you.”
“What’s the name?”
Finally, she nodded, and I paid for our drinks. I was pleased with our results. Mine was dark and beautiful, though I almost questioned my adults-only gateway-to-crack choice of beverage, by way of example. Bronwyn’s was bright purple-pink with swirls of blue and a fairy dusting of pink and blue sugar on top of the whipped cream. The barista had indulged my stupidity with a huge smiley face on the cup right next to the name, “Brooklyn.” I tossed a tip in the tip jar.
We meandered over to a table in the food court then, and I still had this eerie feeling that Mr. Superfan was looking our way. When was I going to let that go? “I suppose I should text Uncle Jack to tell him and Dec to meet us here,” I said. Just as I said that, I spotted Jack and Declan coming through the food court entrance, carrying bags from Best Buy. It was as if Jack and I were so close we could communicate by telepathy, either that or the smell of Cinnabon was like the call of sirens to Ulysses.
I waved them over, and they joined us at a table. Best Buy bags mingled with pastel bags from Forever 13 (or wherever it was) on a spare chair.
“Don’t look now,” I said, “but we met this guy in the food court earlier who’s a mega-fan of our Blaze comic series. He strikes me a bit creepy, but he’s sitting there in the corner. Blondish-brown hair, receding hairline, rectangular-framed glasses …”
“Don’t look now” had the same effect as saying, “Don’t think about zebras in bikinis.” Do you see what I mean? What image just popped into your head? Jack looked to the corner.
“I see him,” Jack said.
“Is he staring at us?”
“I’m staring at him,” said Jack. “Oh, now, he’s looking.”
“Look away,” I said.
Jack did. I thought that our guy might walk over to chat with Jack, now that he had joined us. It wouldn’t be too unreasonable considering our earlier business discussion, but I now had mixed and strange feelings about it.
I fished in my shirt pocket and pulled out the pen he’d given us earlier. “He gave us a pen,” I said. “Apparently, he runs a comic book store and suggested we could go there for a signing some time.”
“Not a bad idea,” said Jack. He looked hard at the pen, at the business name on the side, at first. Then, he began to twist and turn the pen in different angles and stare at it some more. He was so mesmerized you’d think it was one with spinning lighted fiber optics (one of our own products.) I was mostly accustomed to Jack’s quirks by now, the way he would study ordinary things from an engineer’s perspective, but this was seeming ridiculous. It seemed like a pretty run-of-the-mill pen to me.
“Is there something special about that pen?” I asked.
“Maybe not,” said Jack. “It just seemed … well, never mind …” He set it down on the table. “Going to his store for a signing might not be a bad idea, for our writer and artist.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I think he wants you … the big brains, the concept guy. The superfan’s as fruity as a pebble, if you ask me.”
“As fruity as a pebble?” Jack raised his eyebrows. “Pebbles aren’t generally fruity.”
“Some of them are, when they come in boxes labelled Fruity Pebbles.”
“The breakfast cereal isn’t made of literal pebbles,” said Jack.
“I’ve known that since I was five,” I said. I sighed. “Don’t be so literal when I am trying to be clever.” I paused. “Is he still there?”
Jack glanced back in the direction of the corner. “No, he’s gone now.”
© Susan Joy Clark 2021